Live Review : The Darkness + Blackfoot Gypsies @ Academy, Manchester on November 24th 2017.
Is it getting harder to commute to Manchester or am I getting slower? After my last experience on Tuesday, I decided to set off from Liverpool in good time to ensure I would arrive well before the support act Blackfoot Gypsies were due on stage.
The opening act was not publicised on any of the UK dates, was this meant to create an element of surprise or a last minute decision?
The Nashville based quartet led by Matthew Paige on vocals and guitar wasted no time in delivering their brand of swampy blues rock with ghostly tones of early 60’s British rock such as the Stones and the Kinks. The chemistry between Paige and groovy bass master Dylan Whitlow, and pounding drummer Zack Murphy is a spectacle to experience. Soulful Ollie Dogg on harmonica add another loose layer to this highly energetic mix of hillbilly funk.
Paige’s charismatic stage presence leaves a crowd mesmerized, literally throwing himself into his guitar solos, at one point on his knees. Blackfoot Gypsies mostly gave us songs from their last studio album “To The Top”, opening their set with “I’m So Blue”, and treated us with a unique moment, when Ollie took over the centre stage for an epic whistling solo "Lying Through Your Teeth”, which from now on should be named “The Birdy Song”.
With just under 30 minutes of pure traditional vintage blues rock’n’roll, Blackfoot Gypsies manage to remind us all of the origins of the music we love and call Rock, leaving us wanting more.
Shortly after, the Darkness graced us with their presence, the contagious smiling Justin Hawkins wears the tightest and greenest jumpsuit available in the history of glam rock and has already got the crowd in the palm of his hand before even playing a single note.
The Darkness start with the riffy Billy Duffy-esque “Open Fire” which is promptly followed by “Love Is Only a Feeling” slowing things down a bit early in the set, but we are then treated with the first extract of their new album “Pinewood Smile”, “ Southern Trains” is in itself a pure gem of post modern poetry with lyrics such as : “It's a journey into pure despair, There are fucking assholes everywhere, I can smell piss and shit in the air, Fuck you, Southern Trains, we're not getting anywhere”. I felt relieved to know that there wasn’t after all such a great North-South divide when it comes to public transport in the UK.
The set then covers most of the successful “Permission To Land“ with none other than 9 tracks out of its 11, occasionally coming back to the new album with “All The Pretty Girls” and “Solid Gold”. Another pearl from the genius lyricist who managed to get a whole room of grown-ups sing out loud “…And we're never gonna stop, Shitting out solid gold…”
Rather reserved Dan Hawkins on rhythm guitar, (easy to be if Justin is your sibling) and Frankie Poullain on bass are rather cooler characters, frequently making it back to their mic to throw some superb Queen-ish background vocals while Roger Taylor’s own son Rufus Tiger Taylor is keeping things tight on the skins.
The Darkness have never pretended to be anything else but a good fun rock band and have never hid their influences, AC/DC riffed such as “Black Schuck” or “Making Out” are guaranteed to keep the crowd jumping.
The band come back for their encore with the pleasantly heavier Thin Lizzy-esque at times “Japanese Prisoner Of Love”, the unavoidable “Christmas Time” being so near the festive season before finally ending with an unexpected slow down version of “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”.
The Darkness proved tonight that they still remain one of the best British rock n’ roll band there is out there. Don't miss out on a excellent night.
Words and Photography by Johann Wierzbicki